TV Review: DI Ray

DI Ray offers an interesting new take on the police procedural, with Parminder Nagra at the helm

“Where are you from?

Lord knows audiences and TV commissioners alike love a detective show so any newcomers into the market need to find themselves a USP. Over its four episodes, ITV’s DI Ray manages to do just that, as it refracts the police procedural through the prism of institutional racism in the UK.

Created and written by Maya Sondhi (Maneet herself from Line of Duty), Parminder Nagra takes on the title role as an officer who gets a long-awaited promotion. Only trouble is, it looks like the powers-that-be have given it to her because it’s a “culturally-specific homicide” and so there’s a whole wealth of doubts and preconceptions she needs to navigate, not just in solving the crime but even in being able to do the job.

So as Ray works through the micro-aggressions and the macro-, there’s a subtly powerful study of the multi-faceted ways in which people of colour are forced to reckon with their identity in today’s society. Engaged to a white man (and fellow high-ranking officer), she’s got her own journey to deal with, the contrast with her new sergeant Tony (an excellent Maanuv Thiara) particularly stark in terms of how integrated they each are with the Asian community in Birmingham.

The case they’re working mushrooms satisfactorily from initial local suspicions to something more suitably grimly epic. And if the pacing overall may sometimes feel a little slow, the plotting unwinds in a gripping manner. Gemma Whelan as sceptical boss DCI Hendersen, Jamie Bamber as the eye candy love interest and Peter Bankolé’s initially hostile DS offer sterling support and behind the scenes, Jed Mercurio exec produces with Sondhi – hopefully we’ll get more.

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